(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“The Sons of Chan” is the last story in Chin’s short-story collection The Chinaman Pacific and Frisco R.R. Co. Chin’s stories are the most stylistically idiosyncratic of his writings. Their prose is dense, allusive, and layered. In keeping with this individualism in style is the way that, in many of the stories, the protagonist concocts a subjective mythology. In the earlier The Chickencoop Chinaman, the hapless hero had tried to remold American pop iconography to his own ends; in the later Donald Duk, the hero locates a sustaining mythology by discovering forgotten pages from the Chinese past. In “The Sons of Chan,” however, the hero dreams up his own personalized fantasy world, which is centered on the existence of a secret brotherhood; the imaginary actions are intercut with the more realistic events of the story’s plot.

This brotherhood, The Sons of Chan, is made up of symbolic male children of Charlie Chan, that is, of Chinese American men who were crippled by media depictions of Asian sons. The vow of this order is to kill the actor who originally played Charlie Chan.

In the story, the symbolic attempt to break with the male stereotypes acquired in childhood intersects with the narrator’s attempt to face down, in the real world, an example of the female type who has been put forward as the only worthy object of desire by American popular culture. This culture never portrays desirable Asian women...

(The entire section is 475 words.)

The Sons of Chan Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Abe, Frank. “Born in the USA: A Story of Japanese America, 1889-1947.” Amerasian Journal 30, no. 2 (Summer, 2004): 107-113.

Cheung, King-Kok. “The Woman Warrior Versus The Chinaman Pacific: Must a Chinese American Critic Choose Between Feminism and Heroism?” In The Woman Warrior: A Casebook, edited by Sau-ling Cynthia Wong. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Lee, Rachel. The Americas of Asian American Literature: Gendered Fictions of Nation and Transnation. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Leonard, Suzanne. “Dreaming as Cultural Work in Donald Duk and Dreaming in Cuban.” MELUS 29, no. 2 (Summer, 2004): 181-205.

Li, David Leiwi. “The Formation of Frank Chin and the Formations of Chinese American Literature.” In Asian Americans: Comparative and Global Perspectives, edited by Shirley Hune, Hyung-chan Kim, Stephen Fugita, and Amy Lin. Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1991.

Nguyen, Viet Thanh. Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Nguyen, Viet Thanh. “The Remasculinization of Chinese America: Race, Violence, and the Novel.” American Literary History 12, nos.1/2 (Spring/Summer, 2000): 130-157.

Richardson, Susan B. “The Lessons of Donald Duk.” MELUS 24, no.4 (Winter 1999): 57-78.

Wong, Sau-Ling Cynthia. “Autobiography as Guided Chinatown Tour? Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior and the Chinese American Autobiography Controversy.” In The Woman Warrior: A Casebook, edited by Sau-ling Cynthia Wong. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Wong, Sau-ling Cynthia. Reading Asian American Literature: From Necessity to Extravagance. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998.